- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sergio Garcia (13-1) - A major favorite for the first time in his career, the 28-year-old Spaniard has a tremendous opportunity to shrug off his major monkey. Few in the field are in better form than Garcia, who was the runner-up in his last start at the European Open. And nobody present plays links courses better than Garcia, who has six top-10 finishes in the last seven British Opens.

Ernie Els (17-1) - The sturdy South African has finished among the top four in six of the last eight British Opens, winning his third major at Muirfield in 2002. Els seems to have completed the transition from longtime swing instructor David Leadbetter to Butch Harmon, but there still seems to be something missing inside the Big Easy.

Lee Westwood (21-1) - The 35-year-old Brit is in the midst of a renaissance season, but his game always has translated better to inland layouts. Take a pass on him this week but don’t forget about him in next month’s PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.

Phil Mickelson (21-1) - Please, Lefty has about as much business on a links as a vegan has at Morton’s. Links golf requires a low ball flight and high golf IQ - Mickelson has neither. Lefty has just one top-10 finish in 15 previous Open starts.

Geoff Ogilvy (26-1) - An excellent wind player and marvelous putter, the Aussie has the tools to triumph at Birkdale. The 2006 U.S. Open champion will win another major, and this could be the week.

Jim Furyk (26-1) - Tying for third place at Congressional two weeks ago was his best finish in months, perhaps promising an end to one of the least consistent stretches of his career. The 38-year-old finished tied for fourth at Birkdale in 1998, but he has that fading veteran look about him.

Padraig Harrington (26-1) - No chance. The Irishman has an injured right wrist and would have withdrawn under any other circumstances. As the Open’s defending champion, he felt compelled to play.

Adam Scott (34-1) - Continues to be the most disappointing player of his generation. None of the game’s talented young players have experienced a greater disconnect between their week-to-week and major performances. The 28-year-old Aussie with 12 victories on both sides of the Atlantic has just one top-five finish in 20 major starts. The hand he broke before the U.S. Open seems the least of his concerns.

Justin Rose (34-1) - A decade after he introduced himself to golf at Birkdale as a 17-year-old amateur, Rose returns with visions of claiming the claret jug. Interestingly, Rose hasn’t finished in the top 10 at an Open since that tie for fourth in 1998 and like Westwood seems better suited to the PGA Championship.

Stewart Cink (34-1) - Surely, the golf gods can’t be this cruel. If Cink wins the jug, a season merely marred by Tiger Woods’ early withdrawal officially will become a travesty. Rank-and-file furniture like Cink aren’t supposed to win majors — or even seriously contend.

Vijay Singh (34-1) - The 45-year-old Singh has acted his age this season for the first time in a decade, meandering through a series of lucrative though indifferent finishes. The bulk of his best finishes in the Open have come at the Old Course, where raw power often trumps imagination and grace. Birkdale behaves nothing like St. Andrews.

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